Monday, 1 October 2007

If women ruled shul...

It has often been said that if women ruled the world, there would be no war, no terrorism, and far less poverty. Although there’s no evidence to suggest that this is indeed true, men have been running the show for a while now, and it’s pretty fair to say that they’ve made an almighty mess of it. I’ve also got a sneaky suspicion that if women controlled religion, there would be a lot more common sense involved in the whole affair. If women ran the Beit Din, the chances are that there would be far more order and sensitivity associated with marriage, divorce and conversion. That’s for sure.

When it comes to Succot, I’ve often wondered what it would be like if roles were reversed. I always get a little stressed by Succot, and I’m pretty sure that if women were in charge, life would be much easier. Building the Succah isn’t a problem – thanks to our good friends in China, building the Succah has basically turned into lego for big kids. The four species though are a whole different story. It starts with the picking – our male leaders have developed, over time, an obscure set of laws that determine what’s kosher and what’s not. If women had been asked to interpret the verse, “Pick for yourself a beautiful fruit of the tree”, we would have crowds of people arriving at shul with pomegranates, mangos and galia melons. Instead, we’ve got men examining the tip of a wrinkled lemon with a magnifying glass to see if they can find any miniscule black dots.

But the bit that really gets me is when the men walk around the Bima for the Hoshanot. It would seem that the only reason that shuls were built with balconies was so once a year the women could peer down at the men… and laugh. A shul full of over 200 men, all holding the four species, cannot fit into a tiny space around the bima. But they try. After about 20 seconds they suddenly realise that they’re not going anywhere, so what do they do? They stay there, looking around and yelling at each other to move, as if that’s going to make things better. Eventually, after shuffling no more than three or four steps, they return to their seats, having not learnt a thing from their pathetic attempt. I am sure that if roles were reversed – women leading the service below and the men in the gallery – that the men would be treated to a synchronised display of weaving in and out of pews, worthy of the Royal Ballet.

But let's not take this role reversal thing too far - kiddush would be a disaster!